Hot stuff: Your summer gadget guide

Devices to help you get the most out of your summer

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Garmin Mobile GPS Service for BlackBerry

Typically, we would strongly recommend leaving your CrackBerry at home for your big summer trip. But given the current swirl of impressive GPS-related products available for everyone's favorite mobile device, the editors decided to rethink the no-BlackBerry vacation mandate.

Garmin's Mobile service ($10 a month) pairs a subscription software service with GPS locator technology to deliver precise location-based directions, traffic information and weather reports. It can also help you find nearby restaurants and hotels. Text-to-speech functionality increases safety by allowing the BlackBerry to speak directions instead of forcing you to keep checking the display.

GPS 10x
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GPS 10x receiver
 

If you don't own one of the newer GPS-enabled BlackBerry models, it's no big deal. You can synchronize your device with Garmin's GPS 10x receiver ($199) or its GPS 20SM receiver/mount ($249) to experience the joy of using your BlackBerry for something besides checking e-mail.

Not a BlackBerry user? The Garmin Mobile service is also available for a variety of other phones and mobile devices.

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Sony PlayStation Portable Game System

Sony's $170 PlayStation Portable has finally come into its own this summer. Initially seen solely as a gaming device, this high-quality handheld is much more. World travelers will love the ability to play games, listen to music, watch movies and browse the Web on a single device.

The PSP is stylishly designed with a nicely reflective 4-in. LCD screen, Wi-Fi and a fully functional media player. And here's the kicker: If you have a TiVo that's connected to your home network, you can use the service's TiVoToGo software to download TV shows and movies directly onto the PSP for your viewing pleasure.

PSP
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Sony PlayStation Portable

What about games? We recommend Madden NFL 07, NHL 07 and World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions. (For more info on PSP games, check out The 10 Best PSP Games on GamePro.com.)

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Creative Zen Stone MP3/WMA Player

With the Zen Stone, Creative has transcended the material realm of clunky, bulky, overly complex MP3 players. The Stone has no moving parts save a few buttons, making it a competitor to the $79 iPod Shuffle.

Zen Stone
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Creative Zen Stone
 

The price and extremely small size are the kickers here. At 2.11 by 1.39 by .5 in., the Stone is literally the size of a skipping stone. And while the device contains only 1GB of music -- that's roughly 250 songs -- it also costs only $40, making it a perfect child-silencing device for long flights and car rides. While the Stone lacks an equalizer or other acoustic perks, the sound quality is excellent.

The Zen Stone comes in six colors: black, white, pink, blue, red and lime green. The player supports MP3 and WMA file formats. It syncs seamlessly with Windows PCs via the Windows Media Player.

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Driving LED Emoticon
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Driving LED Emoticon
 

Driving LED Emoticon The Driving LED Emoticon is the perfect geeky gadget for road-bound drivers or families. This clever device comprises a simple battery-powered LED message sign that drivers can mount on their rear window.

The Emoticon is remotely controlled by the driver and allows you to communicate basic responses or requests to fellow drivers, such as a smiley face for "Thanks" or a frowning face for "You've been tailgating our car for the last 20 miles even though the passing lane is wide open, and did you notice that there are four kids in the car?" Or something like that.

The Driving LED Emoticon is available for $30 from ThinkGeek, and may not be legal in all states and counties.

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Sun Visor TV/DVD Player w/FM Transmitter

Nothing says "conspicuous consumption" like a $300 home entertainment system built into your car's passenger-seat sun visor. The 7-in. LCD Sun Visor from Gadget Universe does it all. The player uses the 16:9 movie theater aspect ratio, so DVD movies appear in all their glory.

LCD Sun Visor
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LCD Sun Visor TV/DVD Player
 

The Sun Visor supports not only DVDs, but also CD, MP3, CD-R and CD-RW discs, so you can burn your own and listen or watch on the road. And it picks up local TV, too.

Here's the really cool part. You can use the Sun Visor's USB port to plug in your laptop and play media directly from your hard disk. It sends sound through your car's stereo via FM.

Need we point out that the video display is for the entertainment of passengers only, and that drivers should keep their eyes on the road? Regardless, you might want to check your local regulations to be sure the passenger-side device is legal in your state before making a purchase.

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Hot stuff: Your summer gadget guide

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  • Take a trip

    The coolest smart phone, the cutest MP3 player, games and media to go, a car sun visor that plays DVDs, more
 
  • Explore the great outdoors

    GPS for hikers and bikers, a surfboard that lights up, a microwave for camping, cameras to capture the action, more
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